$4 billion question: How to pay for infrastructure fixes?

A new report highlights the depths of the state’s infrastructure woes. Spoiler alert: They extend beyond Flint’s poisoned water. 

LANSING — If Michigan is going to crack the surface of its infrastructure spending problem, residents and policymakers will have to ask themselves two questions.

Who’s going to pay? And how did we get here?

The answer to the first can determine the state’s path toward a solution. The answer to the second could help break a decades-long cycle of underinvestment.

No single reason can explain why Michigan’s infrastructure is in bad shape — so much so that new estimates of just how deep the state’s hole is are pegged at close to $4 billion per year for decades.

MORE COVERAGE: Read state commission’s infrastructure recommendations

There are many reasons: Lawmakers who sign pledges not to raise taxes when they take office, taxpayers who don’t trust governments to spend their dollars on the services they promised, city halls across Michigan that are starved for cash because property taxes only stretch so far.

“It really is on us,” said Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “We can point fingers at administration, legislators ... anti-tax groups, whoever — but the fact is, we are not taking care of the basic building blocks of society. We. All of us.”

In a state where new taxes are often a non-starter, the idea of raising more money for roads, bridges and drinking water lines has long been a hard sell. Voters last year rejected a road-funding proposal to raise sales and fuel taxes; the $1.2 billion legislative plan that Gov. Rick Snyder ultimately signed will get half of its funding by diverting existing state spending. Most recently, in November, a $3 billion regional transit tax for Southeast Michigan failed, largely due to opposition in Macomb County.

Yet the state might have no choice.

In large part, that’s because the emergency in Flint, where lead-contaminated drinking water is still unsafe to drink, has cast a spotlight on the state’s infrastructure problems — and will remain a priority for a long time. The city was under state oversight when it switched drinking water sources without properly controlling for corrosion.

Lawmakers have approved $234.1 million in aid for Flint to date, with another $10 million on its way to the governor’s desk. A spokesman for Snyder said the state remains committed to spending more on water system pipe replacement and public health needs. Congress also is debating legislation that would award $170 million to Flint’s recovery as part of a larger water bill.

But drinking water isn’t the only system facing shortfalls. Roads, bridges, stormwater sewers, wastewater pipes, Internet access and energy transmission also make the list. And if President-elect Donald Trump follows through on a campaign pledge to invest $1 trillion into infrastructure upgrades across the country, it’s likely to spawn more conversations about where Michigan should spend those dollars.

“We’re going to reach a point in this state and in this country where people have to realize if you want things to be new and improved, you’re probably going to have to pay for it,” Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said. “The challenge we will have is getting people to understand about the investment being made.”

Users pay?

A Snyder-appointed commission last week offered some ideas when it released its initial review of the condition of Michigan’s various infrastructure systems, suggesting that user fees be the primary funding source for infrastructure repairs. The idea there is to allow people who use the systems to pay for upkeep.

While not meant to be prescriptive, the 27-member task force also suggested the state consider such ideas as public-private partnerships, toll roads and a state infrastructure bank. It recommended the state start by spending $2 million to create a database that can collect and store data on various infrastructure systems, which could be expanded into a statewide clearinghouse to help agencies better plan maintenance.

“The report was an honest assessment of where we are, not sugarcoated,” said Steudle, who as a department director held a nonvoting seat at the table.

He added that the commission had internal debates about whether the overall dollar figure should be more palatable, easier to stomach. Instead, he said, it “was a really good look in the mirror — an honest look in the mirror — instead of sticking our head in the sand.”

Advocates who believe infrastructure needs to be a priority point to the economic toll underinvestment already has had. They say bad water, crumbling roads, unreliable electricity and spotty broadband Internet access can make Michigan unattractive to companies and the talent they need. The American Society of Civil Engineers wrote that the cost of delayed maintenance to U.S. GDP could be $4 trillion by 2025, and more than $14 trillion by 2040 if the problem is not addressed. By 2025, the Reston, Va.-based association said, U.S. businesses could lose more than $7 trillion in sales and 2.5 million jobs due to poor infrastructure conditions.

The debate over funding anything, including infrastructure, often centers on whose responsibility it is. Incoming House Speaker Tom Leonard told Crain’s last week he believes federal and local governments also have to contribute toward infrastructure fixes. He said the GOP-led Legislature already has taken steps to address transportation maintenance by passing the 2015 road-funding package.

Yet like state government, federal and local leaders also face competing demands for money, and municipalities are limited by state law in their ability to raise money through property taxes.

“On a state level, at least for the foreseeable future, we’ve done our part. What I’d like to see is: What is the plan that’s going to come out of the federal government?” said Leonard, R-DeWitt Township. “This cannot always be on state government.”

Less from feds

The federal government’s share of infrastructure spending also has been sliding.

From 2003 to 2014, federal spending on transportation and water infrastructure systems dropped by roughly 19 percent, compared with about 5 percent at the state and local levels, according to a March 2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office. That’s largely because Washington spends a bigger share of its infrastructure dollars on capital projects than states and cities do, and because prices for building materials have risen.

The budget office said federal infrastructure spending was 38 percent in 1977 before falling during the 1980s as states and municipalities began to increase their share. Federal dollars make up about a quarter of all public transportation and water infrastructure investment, a figure that generally has held since 1987. As a percentage of GDP, federal spending generally has held at about 2.4 percent over the past 30 years.

Federal spending on maintenance outpaced capital investments over the same period, the report showed, which is a reversal from earlier decades that brought interstate highways, dams and the federal Clean Water Act.

Washington in 2014 spent $96 billion on transportation and water infrastructure systems, down 21 percent from a peak of $122 billion in 2002 when adjusted for 2014 dollars. Federal spending historically rises after legislative action.

Whether Trump is able to deliver on his trillion-dollar campaign plan remains to be seen. His plan would include tax credits to encourage private-sector investment.

“I’m very doubtful, actually, that the infrastructure promises from Mr. Trump will come to pass,” said Charles Ballard, a Michigan State University economist. “There would be some tax breaks, and if businesses decide on that basis that it’s in their interest, they would undertake some infrastructure projects. That’s a technique that may or may not be effective.”

That said, Ballard added: “If there is a federally driven, large infrastructure spending project, I would be in favor of it. I don’t know how much further we’re going to let our infrastructure deteriorate.”

A combination of factors has contributed to that problem in Michigan, he said. They include increased polarization in Lansing, an ideological opposition to taxes by residents, government leaders who haven’t always done a good job of explaining the reasons for and impact of millage requests and eroding buying power of Michigan taxes over time, such as a flat gasoline tax that only recently was raised and a sales tax that hasn’t extended to services even as services became a larger share of consumer spending.

Ballard conducted an analysis of state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income dating back to 1972; he found that Michigan’s share was 9.5 percent in 2012, compared with more than 13 percent in the 1970s.

“Government has come to be equated with something we don’t like,” Ballard said, adding that the problem — and solution — is on everyone, from voters to nonvoters to policymakers.

“As long as there’s anything else to cut, I suppose you could cut something and put it into infrastructure, but we’ve cut so many categories of public expenditure very greatly in Michigan, especially (local) revenue sharing,” he added. “Hard for me to figure out how we can do it without new revenue.”

The Snyder-appointed commission noted that funding for some recommendations could come from existing resources.
Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association and a commission member, said shifting current dollars back to infrastructure could free up some money. But it wouldn’t be enough on its own, he added.

Nystrom’s association last week launched a new awareness campaign about Michigan’s infrastructure problem, which he said eventually could lead to advocating for legislative solutions if they’re proposed.

“The major new investment is not going to come out of shifting and efficiencies. It’s going to have to come out of new user-fee investments,” he said. “We have to remember, we didn’t get to this number because we’ve been investing adequately. We got to this number because we’ve neglected to invest.”

Starting options

The commission proposed some areas to start, based on ideas being done in other places.

Bonding for priority projects could remain an option given Michigan’s credit rating and low interest rates, the group wrote. Michigan also could start an infrastructure bank, which is meant to finance public and private investments in infrastructure. They’re good for projects “requiring large lines of credit, which in some cases, allows an entity to multiply its infrastructure investment capacity,” while delaying repayment in the event user fees or savings won’t be realized immediately, it wrote.

The Legislature would need to pass bills creating an infrastructure bank; similar efforts have included revolving loan funds for drinking water and clean-water projects, the commission wrote.

Snyder proposed using $165 million in general fund dollars to start a state infrastructure fund, which could accrue and pay for projects over time. Just $5 million was added this year, though Adler said Snyder is glad the discussion was started.

Public-private partnerships, commonly referred to as P3s, are another option. They allow private entities to pay for public projects; the private company often is repaid with long-term revenue collections.

Last year, MDOT entered into a $123 million partnership with New York-based entities BlackRock Infrastructure and Freeway Lighting Partners LLC to upgrade 15,000 lights on metro Detroit freeways and tunnels, with the private company responsible for operating and maintaining the lights for 15 years.

“We’ve got to have more investment in all of those assets that are listed in that report,” Steudle said, “and in order to have more investment in it, you’ve got to generate it somehow.”

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Sun, 12/11/2016 - 4:07pm
The road funding proposal was defeated for good reason. It was convoluted and unnecessarily complicated. Basically, it was also an attempt to ram through a regressive tax increase. The "no tax increase" legislators are living in a fantasy world. The state doesn't have enough money to fund all the things it needs to fund. The money has to come from somewhere. With that in mind, it seems rather counter productive to completely dismiss the thought of an increase in taxes, whether that be income tax, fuel taxes or a combination of both. A tax increase might just be a necessary reality.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 7:48am
When you add up all the taxes - federal income, social security/medicare, state income, state sales tax, gas tax, city income tax, property tax and all attached to the property tax, and business tax, the cartoon that shows the tax form as a 1 line entry that says list 100% of your income, multiply by 110%, and send it all in is not too far fetched. The difference between our needs and the ability to pay is growing every day. The number of people unable to pay and becoming completely dependent on the government is growing every day. We are rapidly approaching what is called the tipping point when no matter what we do, the path is irreversible. At that point, chaos will reign, and the system will self correct itself just like nature does.
Thu, 10/26/2017 - 4:31pm

That's baloney. What is growing is the concentration of wealth in a few hands who are unwilling to pay. Despite the great recession, year over year, our state GDP grows. But our state leadership lacks the courage and vision to make the sensible investments in our infrastructure, health and education that would make a bright future possible. And then when things go to heck, they (and you) blame it on the poor and dispossessed -- when their relative burden on society, at least economically from a social support perspective, continues to shrink.

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 7:58am
Past governors and legislators have raided any fund surpluses to pay for other things, such as pet projects in order to secure votes. There's so much wasteful spending, like DNR boat ramps on lakes that are rarely used, new buildings on university campuses with fancy signs and lettering, and new state buildings that aren't needed but are a sweetheart deal for campaign contributors, such as the new State Police headquarters which the State Police is moving out of because they didnt want the building in the first place. Before taxpayers are asked to pay more in taxes, the state needs to get all the wasteful spending under control.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 8:07am
It is not just the state. The sweetheart deals go on at all levels of government. I call a lot of what is built as a monument to somebody's ego. When I was a kid we were content to play ball on not much more than a sandlot. Today's fields rival Comerica Park. It is nothing to spend a million on a bike path that is rarely used. Schools and libraries look like luxury homes. It is very easy to spend someone else's money.
Sat, 12/17/2016 - 5:12pm

Jay,You are so absolutely correct about wasteful spending. How often do we read about a $70 million grant for this project or a $45 million grant for something else? The list goes on and on. We are supposed to be so happy that our community got a "grant" but that grant is our tax dollars at work and who decides how to spend the money and if it is wise and efficient? I would love to see more input from the little people whose money it actually is. How do they get to spend these millions of our money? Could it be better and more wisely spent than on projects that are just wants? I think there are real needs out there that the money could be used for. Nothing will ever change, but I hope in my lifetime to see some really meaningful ways to manage the poor taxpayers' monies. We need real leadership to make REAL changes and make this country what it should be. There are ways to cut the waste - we just need someone with the b_lls to do it.

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 8:28am
I seem to remember that State revenues during this administration have been reduced by two billion dollars as the result of a business tax cut.
Le Roy G. Barnett
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 8:33am
The concept of tollroads for Michigan is ill-advised or impractical. The existing infrastructure that might qualify for inclusion in the system could not be retrofitted for tollway status without a huge expenditure of tax dollars. Furthermore, any upgrades of current two-lane highways to tollroad level could probably not pay for themselves, as the traffic load would be too light. The only exception that comes to mind would be a tollway running from I-75 around Waterford Township south to I-96 near Novi. The time is probably not far off when all cars will have sensors for an E-ZPass-type system, and "tolls" can be assessed electronically on all trunk lines rather than by manned booths or roadside collection machines.
Barry Visel
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 8:35am
Tax credits, deductions and incentives add up to more than $30 Billion per year just in Michigan. Eliminate $4 Billion of them...bingo! Back in the 70's I wrote sanitary sewer grants for communities. Feds paid 75%, State paid 5%, and locals paid the rest. I'm not inclined to have my tax dollars pay for them again. At some point we have to learn when we build things they will have to be replaced, and set aside money for that purpose.
William C Plumpe
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 8:40am
Sweetheart deals have been the bane of government since at least ancient Roman times and probably before that. Sweetheart deals happen in private industry too. Look at the outrageous salaries of CEO's. Little chance at all of anybody of any party really fixing any of that. A "same brand of ice cream, different flavor" situation. One way to begin to deal with that problem in government is to dedicate---meaning legally restrict---funds raised for road and bridge repair to be used only for road and bridge repair and nothing else while maintaining current levels of road repair funding the State has control over. If we must increase taxes to fund road repairs I think the majority of the cost should be paid by licensing fees---essentially a type of user fee---for all vehicles that use Michigan roads particularly those like heavy duty trucks with multiple axles that cause the most wear and tear. So all drivers of automobiles face an increase in licensing fees paid by weight and heavy duty trucks who cause the most wear and tear pay a substantial increase in licensing fees to compensate for the extreme damage they cause to Michigan roads. All of those licensing fees with the increases are legally restricted to being spent on road and bridge repairs and cannot legally be used for any other purpose. Are you listening fellow U of M alum Governor Snyder? I sure hope so.
Charles Morton
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 9:10am
Pensions for State and Local Municipalities eat up a lot of our tax money and need to be reformed. Defined Benefit Pensions have been all but eliminated in the private sector, and they should also be replaced with Defined Contribution Plans in the public sector. Teachers, police, firefighters, corrections officers have very generous retirement plans that we can no longer afford. They also can retire far too early. Recent articles about underfunded pensions have highlighted this problem. The Federal Reserve, with its Near Zero Interest Rates, have devastated our pension funding calculations, and that has led to a lot of our problems. We have had to cut back government services to pay for retired employees rathe than present working employees.
Jim Fuscaldo
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 9:17am
Congress is considering as part of its tax plan to reduce taxes on the repatriation of foreign profits a further tax break when U.S. corporations use some of those repatriated profits as capital investments in Public Private Partnerships (PPP) for infrastructure upgrades. Representative Paul Ryan said as much when interviewed on the Sean Hannity program last week. Trump's trillion dollar infrastructure package is to attract more private capital via PPP's (a business approach). In order for Michigan to be prepared to take advantage of this plan it is incumbent on Snyder's administration and state legislature to initiate and pass comprehensive PPP legislation to set the stage to attract many of Michigan's in state corporations to reinvest in Michigan infrastructure.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 10:07am
trump plan for carrier already open a bag of worms. the jobs saved are temporary. the money from the taxpayer will pAY for the CONVERSTION the pants from working people to AUTOMATIC/ROBOTS will do the jobs in the near future....ww.RT.COM
Joseph Sucher
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 9:20am
I have not seen many if any comments related to reighning in costs. Competition for projects has to be in play without being encumbered by minimum wage, immovable union rates, set asides bases on race, gender, place of residence etc. Driving by and seeing five workers leaning on shovels while one person is actually working is not efficient use of my dollars. How many prisoners would prefer getting out for a few hours a day doing some work while perhaps earning some community college credit in a related trade? I'm just saying elected officials must demonstrate some honest creativity in spending taxpayer dollars before voters are going to trust the government and subsequently open their collective wallets. I didn't intend this to be all inclusive nor a perfect solution. Just some ideas that might get the creative juices going so that what needs to get done.... gets done.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 9:57am
the State takes in daily cash.checks. credit cards in the SEC of State offices..Question is where is all that money going and what is it spend ON? Michigan lottery cash daily?time to audit lansing! STATE wants more taxes Create jobs!\Stop cutting Foodstamps..WE have lOSt jobs and 8 Groceries Store that had JOBS and had people that payed TAXES,bring back store and stop All the Charities(that do not pay taxes)..and the Volunteers,that do not get payed .......charity starts in the House.keep it there .we need business/jobs/union back.to make America greater then before.....plant trees, we need fresh.clean air
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 10:03am
More taxes..legalize marjuhana and have more tax money for roads, people first...marhjuana does not kill by overdose. WE lose daily young people in each city ...please publlish the dead daily ,by cities in michigan so the legislature can change there mind/morals..
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 10:11am
Done our part? Mr. Leonard is only kidding himself. He should read the report because it shows that Michigan is near the bottom of states in terms of total expenditures on infrastructure and at the bottom of Great Lakes states. And he has some nerve saying locals should contribute more. He and is friends in the legislature have been cutting funds to local governments. I see where a post-fact culture has also come to Michigan.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 10:17am
"It is very easy to spend someone else's money". Rich, you hit the nail on the head. The people tasked with spending tax dollars didn't earn this money, they are the stewards of the money from all the people and businesses of Michigan, as well as U.S. citizens with regard to federal allocations to our state. There is a greater incentive to spend your own money wisely, than money given to you. With regard to infrastructure, we have long subsidized the cost of our infrastructure for the users. The users have not paid their fair share. Municipalities have not collected sufficient funds for repair & replacement costs of aging infrastructure. As a private wastewater operator, I have several homeowner associations that have had to dig into their personal pockets to replace failing components on their privately-owned, public wastewater treatment facilities. None of them have complained to the government that they need more tax dollars to fix their system, or that their dilemma is somehow a State of Michigan problem.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 11:03am
There is no discussion here of what might be done to promote growth of the state's economy and its population. That's discouraging.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 12:47pm
Ren, the standard answer you would get is more money is needed for education. However, with so many highly educated people, why aren't more solutions being found? Here's at least a partial solution. Have new high school graduates work for one to two years in the trades, such as electrical, construction, carpentry, plumbing, etc. They could learn how to show up for work and put in a good day of learning on the job. Then after they have become competent at their chosen trade, they could continue on and work full time in that field or go on to college for more education. This way they could be trained how to solve real world problems and work with their hands, rather than reading books and sitting in lectures. Its not that more education is needed, but more practical experience with going to work and solving everyday problems.
David Waymire
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 1:09pm
So do you really think a Donald Trump would let his kids be told they have to work as carpenters instead of going to college where they can make the contacts and learn the skills that will make them wealthy? Would you tell your child to do this? I know I would not. Of 8.6 million jobs created since the 2008 recession, 99 percent were filled by those with at least some college, and 72 percent were filled with those who have a four year degree. If you want your kid to get a good paying job with less chance of being laid off, tell them to get a four year degree. I guarantee you every wealthy person will do that for their child.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 2:20pm
The son said that his father (Donald Trump) made him learn how to competently drive a bulldozer before he got in the construction business. I see all of his kids as very hands on.
William C Plumpe
Wed, 12/14/2016 - 5:15am
Very easy to be "hands on" Rich if your father's a billionaire. You can pretty much do whatever you want. The fact that the ultra rich Trump--- who never worked an honest day in his life and got his first million from his father--- is the "champion of the working class" is an irony that is beyond my comprehension. The generals and the billionaires are taking over. Democracy in America will be dead once Trump is sworn in. Welcome to the new Trumpocracy--- government of the Trump, by the Trump and solely for the Trump and his cronies. Just like Putin's Russia America will be ruled by oligarchs---the wealthy few and the people will be ignored and forgotten in the rush for power and profit.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 2:42pm
David Waymire, I said this was a partial solution, not an all encompassing solution for everyone. If a new high school graduate wants to go directly to college, that's his or her decision. But not everyone wants to go to college, or not everyone has made a decision on what to study in college. That's where having them work in the trades is a good way for them to get some work experience while preparing them to keep working in that field, if they choose to do so. Just showing up for work every day is something that many kids aren't taught to do, believe it or not.
David Waymire
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 1:02pm
Ballard conducted an analysis of state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income dating back to 1972; he found that Michigan’s share was 9.5 percent in 2012, compared with more than 13 percent in the 1970s. Just on the state side, we are $10 billion below the Headlee limit, which says we cannot obtain from state taxpayers more than 9.49 percent of personal income. We were at 9.49 percent in 2000, when our roads and infrastructure were much more healthy, college tuition was affordable, and our cities weren't being starved. We also ranked in the top 20 in per capita income. Since cutting taxes (and doing all we can to drive college grads out of the state) we have fallen to the bottom 15 in per capita income. We cannot tax cut our way to prosperity. We must invest. Yes, I'm willing to pay higher taxes...if everyone else is. If we raised state taxes by $5 billion, we would still be way under the Headlee limit.
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 4:29pm
Dave, seriously, you think our state's income ranking decline over the last couple of decades, is caused by the state not taxing us enough rather than a major economic shift away from high labor manufacturing, that will just simply take time to make adjustments? I suspect you're smarter than that.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 1:36pm
Wrong question! If the first question asked is how to get more money to spend then then there will be no other questions asked. We will only hear that question again and again as we have been hearing for decades. The questions should be: Why is the infrastructure in this condition? What is causing the failures; of the infrastructure, in the way the infrastructure is maintained, the way it is designed and build, in spending the money? When will people such as Lindsay Vahulle ask about what we are/ will be getting for the increase spending rather than how to get more money to spend? Are the old ‘answers’ to why more spending simply canned and no new thought or investigations having gone into them? Do those asking for more money think so aloof from us that they no longer respect our knowledge and skills? As for the Society of Civil Engineers, what question were they answering and what accountability will they have if what they say is accepted? Who are they accountable to, those who ask the question or those whose billions of dollars they want spent or no one? Why should’t the public be allowed to ask questions of those engineers if we are expected to give billions and billions on what they say? Money is the last question. The first is why, the second is why, the third is why, the fourth is how will it change results, fifth is it for the future or only meet the needs of the past? Until those and how to do it effectively are answered the money question should not even be considered.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 1:47pm
Several years ago, Proposal 1 was a state-wide referendum to create new revenues to fund road and bridge infrastructure repair. Unfortunately our lawmakers made the proposal so complicated, voters responded with an overwhelming NO vote! As Steve (above) wrote, the proposal was so convoluted and complicated, most voters were confused, and naturally rejected the proposal. Michigan does not have excess revenues, of $4 billion annually, to fund infrastructure repairs. . Currently, lawmakers are transferring $400 million per year, from the K-12 School Aid Fund (SAF) to the General Fund (GF) to help fund higher education. Bottom line, we get what we pay for. Voters will need to consider a ballot proposal, which will increase sales, income or some other tax, crafted to generate the needed $4billion per year. The proposal must be simple, and specifically match the revenues to the repair projects. Mike Shibler.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 1:57pm
I just don't understand why Horry County South Carolina and be so smart and....Try looking at http://www.ridingonapenny.com/ and remember its $0.01 and not 1 percent. Then think about all of the people who pass through this state from football games to hunting. It ain't rocket science.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 3:54pm
Take the money stolen from the Schools. Everyone else has. We've built stadiums with it. Or take the tax on Senior pensions and use it for roads. Or actually tax businesses and let them pay for something.
Lee W
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 10:17pm
Way back there in this discussion, Barry Visel stated, "At some point we have to learn when we build things they will have to be replaced, and set aside money for that purpose." Everyone knows this but every time it is attempted, the funds are raided for other purposes. This applies to Federal as well as state and local funds. Think of Social Security funds rolled into the Fed general fund because it was the "logical thing to do." It'll be all right. Trust me. Yeah, right. Politicians as well as the general public just cannot stand the thought of cash money just sitting there when there is always another project or perceived need. The old grass hopper and ant comparison. That is why most people do not have sufficient reserves set aside for their retirement when they actually reach retirement age. They've always had to spend it on some other need. Some very real. Some perceived. We all have to get better at analyzing wants versus needs. If there were some way to really protect any funding set asides we would not be is such dire straits. I don't have an answer but I do feel I've identified a major problem.
Mon, 12/12/2016 - 11:38pm
Lee, politicians justify spending the money now because they are told that money will be saved five years down the road. Who tells them this? Government bureaucrats that justify their existence by fooling politicians into believing that taxpayer dollars are being used for the people. In reality, all they're doing is building a bigger bureacracy, which means hiring more people, spending more on office space and computers, and creating more red tape. But the savings will always come five years down the road, and by the time five years goes by, no one remembers the purpose for which the funds were spent.
Kevin Grand
Tue, 12/13/2016 - 5:58am
"A Snyder-appointed commission last week offered some ideas when it released its initial review of the condition of Michigan’s various infrastructure systems, suggesting that user fees be the primary funding source for infrastructure repairs. The idea there is to allow people who use the systems to pay for upkeep."We already have this. They are called fuel taxes and registration fees. But when Lansing diverts this funding into their own little pet projects in order to garner votes (like mass transit) or does something equally inane like blowing away money on "political paybacks" (i.e. MSP's unwanted HQ, Michigan Senate's new office building, etc.), most people eventually learn about these little shenanigans, get a little angry that their hard-earned money is treated like trash and shut down the politicians along with the crony capitalists who come along for the ride (Exhibit "A" - last year's Proposal 1, Exhibit "B" - last month's failed RTA tax). I'm disappointed, but not surprised, that Ms.VanHulle avoided going into that fact in more detail.